It is the camera’s job to capture light, but on occasion it can capture the truth. This is not done on accident, but through sheer unadulterated skill from photographers like Richard Avedon. Richard Avedon was able to produce captivating shots time and time again, knowing the perfect means necessary to show the world a new form of controversial beauty, one that contains “stark imagery and brilliant insight into his subjects’ character” (PBS) . For more than fifty years Richard Avedon’s portraits have filled some of the country’s finest magazines, and will go down in history as one of the most influential American photographers.
Avedon was born May 15th, 1923 in New York, child to Anna Avedon and Jacob Israel Avedon. Both his parents worked in the fashion industry in their own clothing store on Fifth Avenue. “Inspired by his parents’ clothing businesses, as a boy Avedon took a great interest in Fashion, especially enjoying photographing the clothes in his father’s stores” (Biography). His mother was extremely supportive of his interests, and at the age of 12, Avedon joined the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) Camera Club. Avedon would use is family’s Kodak Box Brownie to capture the world he was so curious about. One of his first muses was his sister, Louise, who was a “beautiful subject to capture on film” (Wikipedia). His sister had always struggled, but was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia. These experiences of fashion and tragedy shaped his later photography style.
Richard Avedon spent his high school years at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where he started work on the school paper, The Magpie. It was then that he discovered his affinity towards poetry during his senior year, and in 1941, he was named “Poet Laureate of New York City High Schools.” It was shortly after high school that Avedon enrolled at Columbia University to study philosophy and poetry, but dropped out shortly after.
His beginning in photography was not glamorous. Avedon joined Merchant Marine, where he was assigned to take ID photos which would later influence his future approach to portraiture. He left in 1944 and attended the New School for Social Research in New York City to study photography under Alexey Brodovitch, the art director of Harper’s Bazaar (he would work there for a total of 20 years). He was hired officially as a staff photographer for the Junior Bazaar section. It has been claimed that over the course of one year Avedon and Brodovitch formed a close bond.”From the beginning, he brought both motion and emotion to his assignments. His work had a candid, spontaneous quality-with variable focus and streaks of movement (The New Yorker would later call it the “Avedon Blur”)” (Vogue).
There was a subtle psychological undertone to his art as well, often capturing his models’ faces with overtones of emotions behind the “act of dressing up”. It was also around this time that Avedon was assigned to cover the spring and fall fashion...